October 16, 2014
I hear a lot of historical echoes there. The first Chinese person I knew well, back in England 40-odd years ago, had grown up in Shanghai during the Japanese occupation. He had some toe-curling stories about Japanese atrocities; but he”d always end them with a sort of half-excuse for the conquerors: “The Japanese themselves weren”t the worst. The worst were their colonial troops”Koreans, Mongolians, Manchus, Taiwanese …”
There’s something about those ethnic borderlands and colonies. The guy responsible for spreading Greek civilization all over the known world, at the point of a sword, was from backwoods Macedonia. Napoleon was Corsican; Hitler Austrian; Stalin Georgian.
George Orwell pondered this:
I have always held that if we ever have a Hitler in this country he will be, perhaps, an Ulsterman, a South African, a Maltese, a Eurasian, or perhaps an American … but, at any rate, not an Englishman. [Tribune, 6/30/44.]
An American? I think Orwell was being a bit snide there. He does, though, prompt the question: If we ever have an authoritarian dictator in the U.S.A., will he come from the borderlands? What borderlands? Puerto Rico? Guam?
Voice from the back of the class: Kenya?
Who said that? Which boy said that? Stand up, please. Was that you, Derbyshire? …